10 Facts About Alan Turing

Alan Turing was responsible for inventing the Universal Turing Machine. This machine was capable of performing a command by reading the instructions that were given to it on a tape. This device would eventually become the blueprint for the electronic digital computer. Although Turing was not the sole inventor of the computer, he was a significant contributor to its creation.

1. Alan Turing’s conceptual design was for a fairly simple typewriter-like contraption capable somehow of scanning, or reading, instructions encoded on a tape of theoretically infinite length.

2. Turing believed that this process could be refined to the point that it could be made to replicate logical human thought. The Turing machine, as it was called, could in theory be programmed to do whatever it was told to do based on the information that was on the scanned tape.

3. At the time when Turing introduced his theories in a scholarly paper, few were able to grasp his concept. His ideas were so beyond the understanding of his time that many reading his published work simply viewed his ideas as interesting, not materially possible.

4. There have been many different people who contributed to the invention of the modern computer, so no one man can fairly be given all of the credit. However, it was Turing who first envisioned the use of a keyboard, spread sheet or word-processing program.

5. Turing’s paper was not just difficult to understand, many critics saw it as anti-Christian or, at very least, provocative. Unfortunately, it would be Turing’s work that would lead to his personal demise and untimely death.

6. A personal loss ruined Turing’s religious faith and led him into atheism. Atheism was what led to his theories as he then believed that all phenomena must have materialistic explanations.

7. Turing’s dismissal of God and vocal nature did not make him an obvious choice for positions at institutions of higher learning. Eventually, Turing was able to secure a position working with some other brilliant inventors and mathematicians. Although his ideas were received openly among his colleagues, attempts to reach scholars outside of his circle were in vain.

8. Turing was recruited to serve in the Government Code and Cypher School. Turing’s assignment was to break the Enigma codes used by the Nazis in communications between headquarters and troops. His work in this position was secret so it was not known until years later that Turing played a crucial role in designing a primitive, computer-like machine that could decipher at high speed Nazi codes to U-boats in the North Atlantic.

9. Turing’s ideas about a thinking machine can be read in his famous 1950 article where he proposed what he called an “imitation test,” later called the “Turing test.” He proposed in this paper that there could be a machine invented that could ask questions so similar to how a human would pose a question that the one being asked to answer which is the human and which the computer, could not tell which was which.

10. Turing was honest about his homosexual orientation but, because homosexual relations were still a felony in Britain, Turing was tried and convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952. Although he was not sent to prison, he was ordered to undergone hormone therapy that, at the time, was believed to be able to suppress his homosexual desires.

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"10 Facts About Alan Turing." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 31 Aug. 2015. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/go/1172/alan-turing/ >.

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